HomeBlog Selling Soft Drinks or Software: Common Marketing Lessons

Selling Soft Drinks or Software: Common Marketing Lessons

May 23, 2016 | By Phyllis Davidson

  • Consumer and b-to- b marketers share some common goals, challenges and opportunities
  • A review of corresponding consumer and b-to- b marketing examples is useful in understanding buyer behavior
  • Examples covered include marketing approaches for personalization, segmentation and timeliness

We all know psychology plays a role in buying decisions. Whether you’re selling soft drinks or software, you need to get people feeling like they want to buy what you’re selling. While there are plenty of differences between consumer marketing and b-to-b marketing, both marketer types share that fundamental goal of driving buyer behavior – and both types are benefitting from an explosion of marketing technology and innovation that enable greater sophistication in audience targeting, content creation and program delivery. Let’s juxtapose consumer and b-to-b marketing examples to see what can be learned about common buyer behavior.

It’s All About You, You and You

The first example from consumer marketing has morphed into an entire marketing movement around personalization: Create a personalized “Amazon.com-like” experience for customers and make them feel understood, and you will grow the business. Technology has made personalization possible, though b-to-b marketers are just in the early stages of figuring out how this approach can be applied to their buyers. Many are seeing success in using a persona-based approach that maps content to phases of the buyer’s journey to achieve the traction marketers seek from deploying the “right content, right audience, right time and place.”

Increasingly, b-to-b marketers also are focusing on behavior-based personalization over and above demographics. A software company, for example, determined that buyers playing the important role of enterprise architect don’t always carry that title, but they behave quite differently from other IT leaders. Using business intelligence software and a self-selection approach, this company created a highly targeted marketing program to resonate with members of this audience, regardless of their title.

People Sitting on Airplane

Segmenting Your Customer Base

The last decade has seen a paradigm shift in the domestic air travel experience. With skyrocketing fuel prices and aging fleets, airlines have struggled to find profitability. As a result, they’re segmenting their paid services into separate product SKUs – tickets, baggage costs, food, boarding orders and more levels of seating. So, the process of purchasing an airline ticket now includes more “content,” with buyers receiving a carefully constructed set of messages and offers designed to encourage them to buy their way to better flyer status. Some flyers will take advantage of the opportunity and feel well served by the special treatment – but flyers who won’t or can’t participate in upgrades may well show preference with their wallets for other airlines that focus their messages on passenger equity.

This scenario provides a cautionary lesson for b-to-b marketers: As you work to cross-sell and upsell, be careful about driving content and experiences that may alienate a target buyer segment.

Consider, for example, “maturity model” content designed to plot the journey that buyers take as they become more sophisticated users of a class of products or technology. Take care in shaping the model story so that target buyers at every level of maturity feel valued. A large security firm nearly scrapped a maturity model upon final review because the content seemed to suggest that those farther down the maturity curve were not as smart as their more mature peers. A careful scrub of the content addressed the issue, however, by removing value judgments about maturity level.

Timeliness Can Mean Now, or Not

The definition of “timeliness” keeps changing, driven by technology that has dramatically upended our expectations. But it’s unrealistic to do everything in real time, including content delivery. We all talk about the “right content, right audience, right time,” but we must effectively prioritize what content requires real-time delivery for what audience, and all the paths for that delivery.

An example of timeliness meaning “now” is a software-as-a-service company that garnered positive press coverage on an announcement of great competitive value. The news was shared internally, but no plans were made for getting it packaged for sales to share with buyers – recognized as the best way to ensure the right audience read the news. Instead, sales had to ask for a content package, and it took the marketing team a week to deliver it. The lesson? Pay careful attention to content timing and packaging decisions, or you risk losing opportunities.

An excellent example of timeliness meaning “now” and “later” is content delivery associated with the 2016 presidential election. President Barack Obama was lauded for his social media prowess during the last campaign, but this election’s candidates have upped the ante. Email subscribers receive their candidate’s commentary within seconds of live election news coverage – but on carefully chosen topics, showing that there’s a clear strategy regarding what topics warrant real-time delivery.

Do you have some interesting examples of kindred consumer and b-to-b marketing lessons? Share them in the comments below – or tweet me – and we’ll give you a callout if we include your example in a future post!

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Phyllis Davidson

Phyllis Davidson is Research Director, Strategic Communications Management, at SiriusDecisions. Based in the Silicon Valley, she has 20-plus years of marketing and communications leadership experience, including roles in public relations, executive and M&A communications, global campaigns and content strategy, and demand generation. Follow Phyllis on Twitter @PhyllisMusings

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